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Krazy Fish finds a home in the belly of the East

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Early in the aughts, ultra-themed restaurants had a "no expense is too great for the ambiance" approach to the dining experience. Ambitiously swank establishments popped up throughout Charlotte. But the current economic climate allows diners to explore all levels of creative design — even décor — on a budget. Now comes Krazy Fish, a creation of K.C. Terry and Giorgio Prisco, on the edge of Plaza Midwood. Terry says he prefers being "edgy." He always has. In the 1990s, he opened Fat City Deli in NoDa, before NoDa was trendy or even edgy. Fat City, a frequent CL award winner back in the day, had a gritty working class neighborhood vibe that flourished in late night.

Krazy Fish's austere location on Central Avenue hasn't cramped Terry's effusive style. What was once a boarded-up Pizza Hut is now an eclectic surfer shop mix of, well, everything, but with an "under the sea" theme — no pineapples, but kitschy nonetheless. In the center of the dining room is a mermaid and dangling from the ceiling are objets d'art. The windows, which had been scored with graffiti, now appear wavy due to a chemical treatment. Colorfully splattered wooden booths flank the walls and glossy tabletops depict either the darkest depths of the ocean or outer space. The music is stoner surfer — yeah, like Sublime.

Krazy Fish opened earlier this year with 80 seats, including the large outside dining area which is fenced in with what appears to be restaurant supply house extras. Although Terry mans the kitchen, he makes frequent forays into the dining room, greeting friends and longtime customers. Some servers you may remember from Fat City; another reminded me of a favorite relative, wanting to make everyone happy.

The menu may seem crazy until you realize it's actually more ADD and scattered. Terry says the lack of focus is intentional. He wanted to include items on his menu from various restaurant genres that he enjoys. Thus, Louisiana Creole and Pad Thai are together with pho and gumbo, lemongrass curry and Southern fried fish.

These dishes share Terry's earthy down-home cooking, robust grub perfect for cooler fall days. Appetizers are among his best dishes. The gazpacho is composed of layers of shrimp served in an oversized glass surrounded with warmed tortilla chips.

Tacos are a dominant feature on the menu and are served on either corn or flour tortillas with a choice of salsas, including tomato, banana, papaya, tomatillo, blueberry tamarind, and honey yogurt with chipotle and lime. A respectable mahi taco special one night is spiked with just enough salsa to be a real crowd pleaser.

In a similar fashion, the roti list offers a selection of meats and vegetables such as pulled pork, Cuban chicken, and chipotle beef with a short list of sauces: Jamaican, Indian, Thai or Vietnamese curry sauces; habanero apple butter; or Cajun marinara sauce. The drawback to these wraps, though, is the flour tortilla, which makes everything tastes like a burrito. An actual roti (pliable Indian styled flat bread), a chapati, or even the buttery roti from Trinidad would complement these ingredients so much better. To the diner, I would caution against excessive creativity. Some flavors were never meant to be friends. And not all entrées work: The Pad Thai is awash in a dense sauce.

But for the professional explorer to come upon such uncharted culinary territory is fun. Krazy Fish is not meant to be a humbling culinary experience but a fin, er, fun place to kick back with friends.

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